Friday, 15 March 2019 17:02

Noteworthy Legislative Updates

As the normal course of business for the legislature, much is happening in the final days ending Saturday, 3/16/19, at noon. 

 

You’ll get the best update at the BASH on April 4, 2019 with Sen Stuart Ingle.  Don’t miss this great event – register here.

 A few of the latest highlights that could change at any moment:

 HB 6 Tax Changes:

            - Removed Personal Income Tax (PIT) increase. Good news for most businesses and higher income earners, like doctors.

            - Increase vehicle purchase tax to 3.5 percent (formerly in the bill at 4.2 percent)

            - Charge GRT on online sales (as allowed by the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling)

            - Charge GRT to nonprofit hospitals (as is current practice with for profit hospitals)

            - Increased working families tax credit

            - Increased cigarette tax

 SB 437 Raise Minimum Wage and Create Separate One The current state mandated minimum wage is $7.50, 25 cents higher than the federal mandated minimum wage.  Many cities and counties, however, already have mandated wages much higher than that.

 Late last night, there was a conference committee between the Senate and House that produced the following agreement:

                                            Minimum Wage          Tipped Wage

1/1/20 – 12/31/20                 $ 9.00/hour                $2.35/hour

1/1/21 – 12/31/21                 10.50/hour                  2.55/hour    

1/1/22 – 12/31/22                 11.50/hour                  2.80/hour

1/1/23                                    12.00/hour                  3.00/hour

Student wage:  $8.50/hour

No Consumer Price Index (CPI) increases        

SJR 1 PRC Election and Appointment While everyone has concerns about political appointments, voters will decide if regulators in the most powerful state agency remain elected by district or are appointed.

            The Public Regulation Commission (PRC) regulates utilities, the state fire department, some transportation, and others.  It has more power than any other agency as well as the Governor because there really is no balance of power or checks and balances.  Decisions made by the PRC can only be challenged by the case going directly to the NM Supreme Court.

            Riddled with controversy and problems since it was first created, this constitutional amendment that goes to voters would make the current elected five member body a three person appointed commission.  The process for appointment would be similar to judges where a panel would choose qualified candidates who would be appointed by the Governor for staggering terms.

 SB 489 Energy Transition Act The bill has passed both chambers and is expected to be signed by the Governor.  It provides for, among other things, the shut down of San Juan Generating Station and an aggressive new Renewable Portfolio Standard. It also provides for apprenticeship training, a community assistance fund for the Farmington area to transition away from coal mining and the coal fired plant. 

            Currently, New Mexico’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires utility companies to produce 20 percent of its electricity by 2020.  The new standard is:

            By January 1, 2025, 40 percent

            By January 1, 2030, 50 percent

            By January 1, 2040, 80 percent

            By January 1, 2045, zero carbon resources

 HB 356 Cannabis Regulation Act This bill to legalize recreational marijuana hit a wall in the Senate. It would allow purchase of marijuana through state run stores, which was a concept originally established in a Senate bill sponsored by three Republicans.  It was combined with the efforts of Democrats in the House to barely win approval of the full House with a vote of 36-34 vote.  See the voting record here.

            The bill was approved by its first Senate committee, but failed to get a hearing in Senate Finance, where it was likely to fail if debated.

            While some say this would be an economic booster for New Mexico and create jobs, others were concerned about the lack of control standards for such things as operating a vehicle.

HB 8 Background Check for Firearm Sales This highly controversial bill passed both chambers and was signed by the Governor.  Other gun bills are still making their way through the system. 

            This has become a highly charged issue between supporters of the legislation and opponents who are strong supporters of the Second Amendment of the US Constitution which reads:  "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

            This has caused most county commissions and sheriffs throughout the state to declare they are Sanctuary Counties and will not enforce this law.

HB 51 Decriminalize Abortion was defeated on the Senate Floor, 24 to 18.  See the Senate floor vote here.

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